Tag Archives: Group E

South Africa 2010 round up so far and what’s still to come..


With just the final round of group games remaining there are only 90 minutes of World Cup 2010 left for half the teams. Lets take a look forward to the remaining games and reflect back on what’s happened thus far.

Anelka & Domenech -the men at the center of the French controversy

In Group A it would appear that both Uruguay and Mexico have all but secured their spot in the final 16  and a draw between the two of them tonight would see them both go through. However a draw for Mexico would see them finish 2nd in the group meaning a show down against Argentina in the next round – obviously not ideal, so it makes for an interesting final game and gives a glimmer of hope to both the rainbow nation and a largely underwhelming French side. For South Africa, it appears they will be the first host nation to fail to emerge from the group stages and for the French it would be a travesty if they actually scrape through. They have been beyond disappointing thus far and clearly their much publicised internal problems are effecting the performances on the pitch – there must be plenty of Irish fans around the world who cant help but smile – fair play I say!

The Webmaster suggests Mexico will have the goods tonight in a narrow win which will see them top group. Hopefully the narrow defeat will still leave Uruguay in 2nd spot leaving them the unfortunate task of facing Argentina. South Africa and France to draw sending the French team to their holiday destinations, where they clearly want to be, and leaving the South Africans to join the rest of the country in the stands; blasting on Vuvuzelas.

Maradona's faith pays off - Higauin hits a hat-trick against South Korea

Moving on to Group B Argentina are sitting pretty at the top of the group and as long as they avoid defeat tomorrow they will go through in first place. Two pretty solid performances so far see them on 6 points and gives them an opportunity to give some of the remainder of the squad a run out tonight. The Greeks face the tough task of needing at least a point from the game against Maradona’s men to stay alive. When you combine their inability to score with the class of the Argentinian outfit their chances look slim. It is also likely that South Korea will handle any fight from Nigeria and go on to win their final game.

The webmaster predicts Argentina will make light work of the Greek side, recording another win and topping the group on 9 pts leaving them to meet Uruguay in the next round. Whilst Korea’s victory will see them finish in second place and through to the final 16 to face off against Mexico.

Capello brings squad together - time to perform!

Group C appeared to be the easiest group of the lot and the fact the likes of England and the USA have struggled highlights the disappointing nature of the tournament so far. Admittedly USA were robbed of a victory against Slovenia, with an outrageous ruling out of a late winner – the ref had almost blown the whistle before the free-kick was taken. Unfortunately unlike the webmasters’ predictions, England have reinforced their status of chokers with two disappointing performances against USA and Algeria. Despite the poor performance so far, a victory against Slovenia will see them sneak through, so all hope is not lost. There also appears to be a rift in the English camp, a claim that the players have denied, but there is no doubt the pressure has mounted on Capello and his men and they certainly need to turn it around against Slovenia.

The webmaster suggests that both England and USA will pull of a victory in their final game leaving USA in 1st place ahead of England on goal difference – meaning England will face the tough task of Germany in the next round.

Have we seen Harry for the last time?

Mathematically anyone in Group D can still make it through, making for a very interesting last round in the group. Germany started off so well with a convincing victory over Australia but were then shocked in the second game by a determined Serbian side who managed to pull off a very unlikely victory, especially after a poor performance against Ghana. Australia have been on the receiving end of two arguably harsh red cards that has put a massive dent in their world cup campaign. After a disappointing effort in the first game they came out against Ghana with a bang. Everything started so positively and grabbing an early goal put us right back in the mix, but Kewell’s red card and the resulting penalty really put us under the pump. In all fairness Australia still deserved to win the game and really did a fantastic job with only 10 men for such a long period – if only Wilkshire actually tried to score instead of passing to the keeper, things could have been very different. Personally the webmaster felt Ghana were very disappointing – surely they had to try and go for the win against a 10 man Aussie team especially knowing a win would have secured their spot. They now face the task of coming up against Germany in the last game.

Based on the performance against Australia, the webmaster sees Germany recapturing the form they showed in the first game and brushing aside Ghana with ease. This will leave qualification open for Australia to pip both Ghana and Serbia at the line. The webmaster cannot decide between a draw or Australian win, but either way it will then come down to goal difference for the team in 2nd and 3rd.

Sneijder Celebrates after scoring against Japan

Moving on to Group E: we see the Netherlands who are one of only two teams that have already booked their spot in the  final 16 – along with Brazil. The dutch have had two solid performances but have definitely not hit full tilt just yet and will be banking on the return of Arjen Robben to spark some more life into the side come the knock-out stages, if not against Cameroon. Japan and Denmark face off in their last group game which could prove to be an exciting one with the winner going through. A draw would send Japan through most likely in second spot as long as Holland can secure at least a point against a Cameroon side that hasn’t really turned up.  Cameroon are already knocked out of the tournament after two lacklustre performances against Denmark and Japan and are just playing for pride against the Netherlands in the last game.

In the view of the webmaster Netherlands will progress in first place after another victory over Samuel Eto’s Cameroon, setting up a likely round of 16 battle with defending world champions Italy. Japan should be able to at least draw their game against Denmark which will see them against Paraguay in the next round.

Something tells me we wont see this again - thank god!

In Group F we have seen Paraguay almost sew up their spot in the final 16 with impressive performances against Italy and Slovakia. In their final game they are coming up against a resilient New Zealand  team who are determined not to lose, however as long as they avoid defeat they will go through in first place. Captain Ryan Nelsen has proved a colossal force at the back for the All Whites making them very tough to break down. Incredibly, if New Zealand could pull off another draw as well as Italy drawing with Slovakia with the exact same result the decision of who goes through will come down to a drawing of lots!!! This is because New Zealand and Italy will be tied on points, goal difference, goals for, goals against and the result between them was a draw – ridiculous but here’s hoping!  Alternatively if New Zealand win they will go through anyway. The current world champions, Italy, have been a massive let down so far in a world cup which has highlighted below par performances from some big teams. They have been highly unconvincing but will still get through with a victory over Slovakia in their final game. For Slovakia their is a glimmer of hope, should they beat Italy they will progress alongside Paraguay.

Whilst the webmaster would love to see 0-0 draws in both games so we can draw lots to see which of New Zeland and Italy will go through (you know you want to see that!), it appears unlikely and if it happens both games would be rather boring. Rather the webmaster suggests Paraguay will beat New Zealand and Italy will beat Slovakia sending Paraguay to meet Japan in the next round and Italy to face off against Holland.

Portugal celebrate one of their seven goals

Moving on to Group G, where we have Brazil who have already qualified for the round of 16 but could lose out on first place if they lose to Portugal in the final game. Brazil overcame a very determined North Korean outfit in their first game before a more convincing display against Ivory Coast in the second game. They will however be without Kaka in the game against Portugal after a sending off on the back of a ludicrous second yellow late in the game against Ivory Coast. Whilst Kaka has been largely disappointing thus far, his presence will still be missed. Portugal on the other hand started quite poorly against Ivory Coast, where they barely posed an attacking threat, but lifted to another level last night as they humbled North Korea in an embarrassing 7-0 victory. They were simply electric once they got going last night in a performance that has seen them almost guarantee a spot in the next round. Even if they lose to Brazil in the final round it would take a huge win for Ivory Coast over North Korea to swing the goal difference back in their favour. Ivory Coast had started so well against Portugal and in the view of the webmaster were unlucky to not come away with 3 pts from the game. A disappointing result against Brazil coupled with Portugal’s massive win last night has virtually put an end to The Elephants’ campaign. North Korea are already knocked out of the world cup  and will be determined to show their worth against Ivory Coast in their final game.

The webmaster feels the Portugal/Brazil game could be too close to call and could possibly end in a draw which would suit Portugal as I’m not convinced either will want to win, with the reward for coming first, a showdown with pre-trounament favourites, Spain, in the next round. Ivory Coast should have the goods and defeat North Korea but will still bow out due to goal difference.

Gelson Fernandes celebrates a shock winner against Spain

Finally, Group H is left in quite an interesting position. Chile currently sit top of the group with 6 pts, but are still a chance to miss out on the knockouts. They come up against Spain in the final game where a single point would confirm top spot for the Chileans. For Spain it is virtually a must win game as if they fail to win and Switzerland can secure victory over Honduras, the pre-tournament favourites will be on their way home. In what has been the upset of the tournament, Spain managed to lose their first game against Switzerland. They dominated possession but just could not manage to put the ball in the net. A comfortable 2-0 victory last night over Honduras has put them back on track, but Chile pose much more of a threat and Spain will need to step it up quite significantly to secure 3 pts. For Switzerland last nights result was a disappointing one however a victory over Honduras by 2 goals or more should send them through irrespective of the result in the other game. Mathematically Honduras could still go through in 2nd spot should Chile beat Spain and Honduras pull off a big victory over Switzerland, although it appears unlikely.

The webmaster suggests that Spain will overcome Chile in the final game and that Switzerland should also beat Honduras in their final game which will leave Spain, Chile and Switzerland all tied on 6 pts. This will then come down to goal difference to work out who finishes 1st and 2nd. If both Switzerland and Spain win by 1 goal that would see Spain top the group on a better goal difference with Chile and Switzerland tied on goal difference, goals for and goals against and Chile would go through due to their result between each other (1-0 to Chile last night). Leaving Spain to face Portugal and Chile to face Brazil in the next round – PS I might have got this wrong.. feel free to let me know if I have!

So despite some uninspiring games so far we are getting towards the business end of the competition and hopefully that will bring about a more attacking brand of the beautiful game, more like what we got to see last night from Portugal. The webmaster just has three requests for the remainder of the world cup:

  1. the ref’s stop being so trigger happy or rather whistle happy – we have seen far too many yellow cards, some resulting in red cards for really poor decisions
  2. no more diving – I’m so sick of seeing these prima donna’s diving around for absolute rubbish, its plain embarrassing and brings a lack of class to the game we love so much – the webmaster would love to see a straight red card be given for diving, if we impose that for a few matches diving will never be seen again!
  3. no more complaining about the damn ball – it’s a ball, it’s round –> KICK IT! preferably into the goals..  if you’re a keeper –> CATCH IT OR STOP IT! quite simple.

Laughable..

Webmaster over and out.

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World Cup Preview – Group F – Italy/NZ/Paraguay/Slovakia


Does F stand for fail? Or is it worth taking a closer look…? (departing from our normal stylistic structure)

From the outset, this was the group I least looked forward to previewing. And it’s shown, I’ve stalled around this group for a while – desperately trying to write about more interesting football areas. But the time has come, there’s no more procrastination – this is Group F.

Italy

Group F offers the smallest collective population of any group, so the pot to draw from is immediately reduced. (Not in the masterchef way, but like smaller – yeh?) Italy is historically a major force in the football world, even devoting their geography to the cause, but look ageing and lacking. They’re arguably the worst of the top 8 seeded sides. Despite my previous amazement at squads that are made up solely of domestic talents (England, Germany), this isn’t proving a rarity for the bigger nations with established home leagues – and I suppose this makes sense. Italy is the next in line with a squad filled with players from the Seria A. While Italian football certainly overachieved on the club scene, they did so mainly through the expertise of Mourinho. All 3 Italian sides in the competition, but Fiorentina and AC Milan failed at the first hurdle. Additionally, the majority of Inter’s outstanding side will line up for the Italian’s opponents. The Italians look to have lost their sheen with the absence of the likes of Maldini, Grosso, Totti, Inzaghi and too many others to list. The glory years of Italian football through the turn of the millennium looks to be stuttering to a halt. There are too many relatively unknown/foreign names in the Italian squad to be legitimate challengers on paper. But that’s on paper, and rest assure, the Italians will cause a few problems.

The Italian squad is full of experience. The gaffer, Marcello Lippi is perennially biased towards consistency and that is what he gets from his side. Don’t expect bucket loads of goals, and this could easily become a major concern for the Azzuri, but expect them to grind out scrappy wins over almost all that come before them. Tremendously poor friendly form (losing to a 2nd string Mexico) is typical of the Pastamen, who seem to know when to bring their A-game. Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan, midfielder) is the Italian answer to Beckham. He’s got the look and is similarly past his prime. He still provides some of the best service in the business and feature prominently in South Africa. Cannavaro and Gilardino will be crucial performers, but Daniele de Rosi (AS Roma, midfielder) will be the 2nd most important cog to their machine. He’s considered the future of Italian soccer and will be looking to confirm his status as a class midfielder 2-way midfielder. Last, but not least, the man between the sticks, Buffon, is still the true legend of Italian supporter’s hearts.

To be honest, Italy would have been one of my tips to dismally underperform in 2010, but in Group F they have the definition of a cake-walk. But after the group, they’ll face a torrid time. Assuming the favourites win, they’ll face a dangerous Denmark who won’t be the easiest of 2nd round opponents. At the quarters, the red hot Spanish will be waiting and if (and it’s a big, towering if) they progress beyond that, they’re still on the same side of the draw as Brazil. The picture above will be a distant memory come July.

New Zealand

The Kiwis are tipped as the worst side in the World Cup by many pundits, but have so far shown considerable fighting spirit for any class they lack. They were the better side against Australia, despite losing deep in stoppage time, and they beat the highly fancied Serbians in what could only be called a hostile environment. The rest of the world don’t know much about them, but a strong Wellington Phoenix side and underrated Ricki Herbert at the reigns should rectify the issue soon enough. In one sense, the side has been given the dream draw and an outside chance of qualification. In another, they may have preferred a tougher challenge, say Group D, where expectations were negligible and they could enjoy the moment. With the weak group and strong recent performances, the rugby-mad population who are used to winning every sport they play (grand total of 3) are expecting big things. The sheep-shaggers couldn’t care less about the highly paid superstars from other sides and the supporter’s no fuss/no prisoners attitude should rub off on the players.

In captain, Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn, Defender) they have a genuine leader and highly physical centre half. Shame Smeltz (Gold Coast United, Forward) has dominated the local A-League with a growing tally of goals and should be the focus of several European scouts. Smeltz, in PTS’ opinion, is an outstanding prospect. They play a fluid and attacking 3-4-3 that prides itself on their neat passing movements.

Many of the “big” football sites are writing them off, but anyone that’s seen them play will acknowledge that they’ll give everyone a shake. I think the order of their fixtures suits them too and a win in the opening game would give them a real chance of knockout stage football. Last time around it was a nation from this corner of the Earth that announced itself to the world, and the similarities with NZ are uncanny: qualified on penalties, not traditionally a football nation, but qualification has seen a euphoric atmosphere in the country, and a self belief that exudes from their football style. But they don’t have as many players employed across Europe and they don’t have such an inspiring and galvanising manager as Hiddink was for the Aussies.

Paraguay

It’s ridiculous that this is yet another team that is highly organised at the back, but lack any considerable attacking threat. Santa Cruz is world class, but has struggled of late and will likely play the lone striker role at the Cup. Paraguay are a picture of inconsistency. Outstanding at times (2-0 over Brazil and 5-1- over Ecuador in qualification attests to that) while dismal at others (losing 4-2 to Bolivia at home). They’re the logical choice for position number 2, but in almost any other group, they’d be favourites to miss out rather than progress. If they turn it on, then expect them to be tough opposition for the Netherlands in the 2nd round, but really, they’ll have a small impact.

Besides Santa Cruz, Barros and da Silva will be the other key figures, but they aren’t exactly world beaters. Indeed, Barros had a difficult path to selection in the squad. He renounced his Argentinian citizenship and then was given his chance after incumbent Cabanas was shot in the head…(What!!!) Just like the 3 times not called Italy in this group, the rest of the squad is remarkably green on World Cup experience (to say the least).

Look for some emotional tributes to Cabanas –  especially after they score a goal, sorry if they score a goal…

Slovakia

I’ve been waiting for this for months. Not exactly. But Slovakia are a chance of qualifying, but only because of this group. They’re at great odds to snatch 2nd place from under Paraguay’s nose, and I fancy their chances. They’ve got a fair bit of talent: Martin Skrtel and Vladimir Weiss will have the best chance of triggering a flash in your brains, but most importantly, they have an incredibly strong, young nucleus to the side. Scouts across the EPL are in a giddy sweat about plenty of these guys. Amongst others, the best fancied is Marek Hamsik who for PTS is probably the hottest talent of the entire tournament. (Massive call) He’s 22 and captains the side. Good start. Plays at Napoli. Okay. Attacking midfiedler with an eye for goal. Well that’ll help him to grab out attention. Hamsik has scored some absolute screamers for the sky blues and is a fan favourite. His major issue is his propensity to celebrate goals with hair gel related celebration. Apparently Dan Ashworth and West Brom have approached him, but he’s already been priced out of the ball park with interest from Manchester United, no less. Watch his stock sky rocket in June and for him to be catching your attention on the EPL highlights show (Monday night 6:30 or 10, Fox Sports 1 HD) before too long.

It’s worth mentioning Peter Pekarik from Wolfsburg, who’s been riding the crest of the German footballing renaissance of late and at 23 is arguably the sides best defender. And I can hear all you Chelsea fans screaming already, I haven’t forgotten, there’s still Miroslav Stoch who’s been a prodigy for Dutch star FC Twente. He’s not that interesting, however, as he’s already been snaffled by the deep coffers of Abaramovich. He probably won’t even get a starting berth, as Stanislav Sestak was simply unstoppable in qualifying with a 6 pack of Lemon Ruskies (goals).

Final Verdict

Italy should dominate the group and fall at the quarters to Spain. It’ll be a scrap for the next position and I doubt Paraguay will be particularly strong, but rather NZ  and Slovakia to exercise their beginner’s luck. Slovakia have an exciting squad with plenty of future prospects and while they won’t trouble the Netherlands in the 2nd round, they will be strong in 2014 and 2018 (in Australia hopefully).

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World Cup Preview – Group E – Cameroon/Japan/Holland/Denmark


So, as the mad scramble before the World Cup starts (we’re in single figures – holy shit) I’ve drastically underestimated time. To that end, a few of the previews will be grouped as one. The writer’s discretion will be used to still endeavour to include lengthy and more thorough write ups for sides likely to make some noise over the next month or so…

THE BASICS

• Nicknames: The Indomitable Lions – Cameroon, Blue Samurai – Japan, Oranje – The Dutch, Olsen’s Elleve (Olsen’s Eleven, in honor of popular coach Morten Olsen) – Denmark
• World Cup Pedigree: This group is full of experience with Cameroon featuring at 5 World Cups (’82, ’90, ’94, ’98, ’02), only reached knockout phase once (quarterfinals in ’90), Japan being regular attendees of late, 8 World Cups (’34, ’38, ’74, ’78, ’90, ’94, ’98, ’06), runners-up twice, fourth place once for the heavyweights, Netherlands, and Denmark who have 3 World Cups (’86, ’98, ’02), progressed past group stage every time, quarter-finalist in ’98 to add to their record.

THE PLOT

This is one of the best pools in the World Cup: Two dark horses from Europe, and top sides from Asia and Africa. It’s been mocked as the Group of Pain (rather than death) and will throw up some thrilling contests. The Dutch are perennial underachievers, and the Danes are one of Europe’s hottest and most improved footballing nations. Japan doesn’t look to be at the same level of ’02 or even ’06, but are always a challenge and Cameroon are the veritable grandfathers of African soccer. If you’re looking for an upset in the group stages, then this group should throw one up… the Dutch look beatable as they struggle with injury and Denmark looks red hot with guns blazing.

THE DIRECTORS

Paul Le Guen – Cameroon

The Frenchman has had stints at Rangers and Lyon and seems to have the goods. He reinvigorated their failing qualifying campaign and immediately slapped the captaincy on Samuel Eto’o. His biggest worry will be around the tiff between Eto’o and Cameroon great Milla. Hopefully he’ll shelve some of the rash decisions he’s sometimes renowned for.

Takeshi Okada – Japan

Okada was at the helm at their first attempt in ’98 and it was 3 and out that time – hopefully he’ll fare better this time.

Bert van Marwijk – Netherlands

This guy is largely an unknown enigma, but has avoided any significant chastising through scrupulous media attention after qualifying with ridiculous each. But this will be a whole different story and there remains question marks over his credentials.

Morten Olsen – Denmark

Olsen’s shadow has dominated over football in Denmark for as long as you’d care to remember. He played more than 100 times for his country and is now the longest continually serving manager at South Africa. They failed in qualification in ’06, but Olsen remained, they didn’t qualifying for Euro ’08, but Olsen remained. Olsen is backwards in some of his football tactics and refuses to budge from attack. He’s labelled his brand as “Holland-lite”. Hopefully he wakes up and realises he doesn’t have the squad to play such a system.

LEADING MEN

Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon

Eto’o still doesn’t seem to have the same “ooh and ahh” factor about him as someone like Ronaldo or Messi does, but the Cameroon superstar deserves every bit of respect he is given. With Inter he became the first player to win a treble in consecutive season. Speed, check, creativity, check, finishing, check, lethal, check.

Christian Poulsen – Denmark

Poulsen is an archetypal box to box midfielder. He has the ability to supply the incisive pass or make the crucial defensive play. He has an archetypal European football hair style and the Juventus man employs the archetypal short temper that many Scandinavian players seem to possess.

Shunsuke Nakamura – Japan

Can’t believe this guy is still around – he’s now at Yokohama after a February transfer. Haven’t seen any action of him of late, but he used to be fast, creative and a free kick specialist. He is the Ryan Giggs of Japan, but unfortunately isn’t of the class of the Ryan Gigss for Man United.

Arjen Robben – Holland

The Bayern Munich talent has been in sublime form of late and will be at the fulcrum of the oranje attack. The squad is full of “leading men” in their own rights, but Robben is the most important of the lot. He can score from long range, regularly gets his name on the scoring sheet, will beat a defender one on one and delivers match winning passes/assists on a regular basis. He also looks like your grandpa.

SUPPORTING CAST

Alexandre Song (midfielder, Arsenal) is a North London favourite and will be crucial for the Africans in the middle of the pitch. It’s also strange that he’s playing in front of his uncle. Cameroon also have an impressive keeper in Carlos Kameni (goalkeeeper, Espanyol) who has been their starting shot stopper for 6 years now.

Jon Dahl Tomasson (forward, Feyenoord) leads the line and the team and his goals could be crucial for qualification.Simon Kjaer (defender, Palermo) is a name that has popped up on transfer rumour sites of late, and the 6’3” defender will be looking to increase his credentials.

Wesley Sneijder (midfielder, Inter Milan) and Rafael Van der Vaart (midfielder, Real Madrid) have been two of the form players in Europe and take the Dutch midfield to extraordinary heights. There are still question marks about their form in the crucial, key games. Robin Van Persie (forward, Arsenal) is one of PTS’ favourite strikers in world football and when he is fit is an awesome force. He could be a roughie for the golden boot if the Netherlands have a good run.

Keisuke Honda (midfielder/left back, CSKA Moscow) is known for his goal-scoring and his free-kick ability, making him the 24-year-old heir apparent to Nakamura; Yuji Nakazawa (defender, Yokohama F. Marinos) is the team’s captain is nicknamed “The Bomber”.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Eljero Elia Unfortunately, Holland probably won’t experiment too much (and that’s how it should be), but if he gets a go, then the Hamburg winger is one of a strong breed of young Dutchmen who look the goods. Ibrahim Afellay (midfielder, PSV Eindhoven) and Gregory Van Der Wiel (fullback, Ajax) are two of their other future prospects.

Nicklas Bendtner seems to be built in a similar mould to a German striker, namely he fares better for country than club. Personally, I think Bendtner was treated a little harshly by many at the Gunners, and that his prolific Danish form will continue.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

The standout candidate amongst this group is Poulsen. We previously mentioned his temper and over the years has been in trouble for spiting, stamping and punching. Punching a Swedish player in 2007 led to a riot.

THE FORMATIONS

Cameroon will employ a 4-3-3 that favours their speed. Olsen and Denmark also favour a 4-3-3 with plenty of overlapping and space creation (Holland-lite) could be interesting against the Dutch themselves. The Dutch will play a 4-2-3-1 with Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben forming a good looking line behind Huntelaar. Japan: 4-5-1 with the ball being played to feet almost exclusively.

THE STRIPS

IT’S SORTA LIKE…
JAPAN: The Next Karate Kid

Some things are the same (Pat Morita, Okada), but the new things (Hilary Swank, a group with the Netherlands, Cameroon AND Denmark) aren’t an improvement.

HOLLAND: Kill Bill

Slick. Fast-paced. Lots of style. Interesting subplots. And, at every step of the way, there’s some kind of revenge dream for the Dutch to play out (whether it’s showing Brazil they do it better in the quarterfinals, England who’s boss in the semis and, gasp, possibly the Germans in the finals).

FINAL VERDICT

For Cameroon, it’ll be a little too much to ask, despite being on home continent soil. The rift between Milla and Eto’o is a distraction that the squad definitely doesn’t need. The government is now involved and it looks more like a circus than successful football side. The Japanese will be only making up the numbers and should occupy bottom place just as in ’06. While Nakamura and Honda are taking the dead balls, they’re always a threat.

The Dutch are arguably the greatest side to not win a World Cup. When you think of the Cruyff era and the Riijkard era (which included van Basten amongst others) you’d think they’re long overdue. But in 2010, they’re on the wrong side of the draw and will have to beat Brazil in the quarter finals just to taste semis and a match up with the Spanish. Their forward line is simply world class, but injuries to key men such as Robben will be key. If Robben is out, it’ll be a big blow, similar to Germany’s situation. Fatigue will be a factor as they play an up tempo style that is difficult to maintain in such an intense tournament.

Denmark are no easy beats and are genuine dark horses at the World Cup. A fortune of talent, and a proud history, Denmark will shake up a few sides. Don’t be surprised if they finish top of the group after an opening draw with an underdone Holland. Denmark is PTS’ smokey to make the semis.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Cameroon surely deserve a decent cup run: picture Eto’o scoring in the quarter finals against Brazil or Spain. For Japan a match up with the Italians in the 2nd round will be dreamland enough. South Africa has a long history with the Duthc, and expect to see the country awash with the bright orange trademark. They’ll be hoping for a final against the Germans, who have long been the main enemy, and will hope that Van Persie fires a cup winning hat trick. For Denmark, facing regional rivals in the opening game is already somewhat of a fairytale – victory will give them a happy ending.


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